Collections of Breakables, #229

The teeth of the comb
are planted down and out
like fangs on nails,
sharpened to perfection
and waiting to wind
its way through the hair
of your daily living
to untie all the knots
you have here created
with your head twirling.

I found one overripe tomato
locked away in the drawer
in the back of the fridge,
left there who knows
how many months ago
or for what purpose
we brought it home
from the store, salad
or a handmade sauce,
and the mold growing.

In the dish strainer, a set
of wineglasses left over
from the last time
we played host
to the neighbors,
a reminder of how little
we like those clothes
and cleaning, or anything
that requires the hands
to be dried and shaking.

Coffee, brewed fresh
in the morning by our
plastic butler, the blurry
eyes of my mother
leaning over to smell
the steam and the beans
supposedly hand picked
by men in the mountains,
hand picked like her scars
and her tears, dripping.

Useful device, a pillow
to rest your weary head
and cradle the muscles
of the back, goose feathers
or new plastics wrapped
in a cotton sheet,
used to keep me calm,
or a least to muffle sounds
rising up out of my mouth,
the geese gifts smothering.

Mom would yell for us
to make the table, as if
out of cardboard and sofas
flipped over we could reuse
our fort, invite in the adults
who had lost their own keys
to their own kingdoms
and wanted to borrow ours,
but chores were the call,
forks, plates, children setting.

The lamp over the lazy boy
was left over from the early 70s
when gauche was hip
and, oh my gosh, how long
did we plan to continue
flipping that switch on
and off, never once talking
about what came in
and went out of style,
all the patterns fraying.

Flowers, stems of love that wilted
as the hours passed by,
as the years go by
in step and silence,
planned out for you to reach
a time when you can leave
and go to school,
or get out and married
or buried and in the ground
with new stems sprouting.

The cloths flop through the washer
like children in bathtubs
except for their lack of struggle,
the bubbles rolling up over
the edges and onto the floor,
leaving a thin sheen destined
to upend some poor sole
passing on the way to the john,
the sound of detergent and cursing
and infinitesimal bubbles popping.

What my mother would keep
in the kitchen, spider plants hung
from the curtain rods, hung off
at an odd angles, but reaching
downward to the ground,
sprouting factors of offspring
she would clip and repot,
making it more of a nursery
for the spiders than for any of us,
the scissors always snipping.

Some story claimed the poltergeist
of old man Bohnsack still lived
beneath the house, beneath
the addition he made to the kitchen,
but when we crawled under there,
grown up and unafraid, we found
nothing but faded scraps
of newspaper, an old deflated
ball and much dust,
even that, no more rising.

Come fall, mom would buy
new pants for all of us,
like clockwork and like an arrow
we would make our way back
to the back aisles, passed
the school signs to the clearance
and leaf through to find
a pair the fit on our bodies
and, if lucky, our liking,
either way sucking and zipping.

Round the house we would run
cords and wires, bare and taped
together to deliver whatever power
we thought was needed to make
all the toys and engines go,
our small fingers and toes
trained to step over
what might spark
and hurt us, ducking
from the words of our father.

Knick-knacks on shelves
piled and dusty and left
out in the open, collections
of breakables that prevented
us from being able to play
catch in the house, Mom,
going through them
to sell the house, keeping
nearly nothing of what
we made with our fingers.

The candle, like any fire
will burn if you put your fingers
too close to the tip, but move
through the bottom of it,
near the wick you can sit
here for ages, looking up
into the teardrop of the flame
whipping around with the wind
until a stiff breeze snuffs out
whatever it was consuming.

The pictures on the wall,
hung up and ignored, acting
more like a buffer or a bar
that showed the progression
of five in a family, down
to four and then just us three,
after dad died and one sister
decided she no longer
wanted to be party
to a family so blinding.

The watch my father
never gave me,
precision time piece
I would like to keep
as a symbol of all things
I was deprived of, all
things I wish to blame
on my grandfathers
melted down in the hands,
and gears ticking.

Made in shop class, the bowl
was never meant to hold
anything more than candies
or screws, one side dipped
in glue and covered in felt,
the other stained a deep brown,
kept in a cabinet and then moved
with mom after the house,
fixture in each apartment,
still always unfilling.

I will curse these glasses,
from the day they were placed
on my face in Kindergarden
until my last day, a mark
of defect and shame, kit
that suggests I was never
good enough to look
at this life unfettered, naked
in this all seeing world,
to me, too often blurring.

Rock me with headphones on
or out in the open, since
my first move a stereo
of some brand name or ilk
has always been the first
unpacked or the last
put into the box to leave,
the steady bass of my life
and the noxious treble
kills the silence, booming.

The closet, where all the games
are hidden, where we keep
the trinkets of our past times
living, our distractions ready
to go at a moment’s notice,
to roll the dice or deal
the cards and leave ourselves
an afternoon that will amount
to nothing but play money
and time wasting.

From this living room, I
can still hear you, dreaming
what I know will be bad dreams
through the whole evening,
some fear you can not shake
or sense that something
is being hidden. It’s all here,
in these walls, in this wallet,
in the things not being spoken.



A day is not done, until it's filled with words.

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